Joanne’s childhood friend, Sally Love, has stirred up equal amounts of excitement and controversy with a mural she has painted for the Mendel Art Gallery. The fresco features 100 portrayals of genitalia from the lovers of her life. While Love is undoubtedly a skilled artist the subject matter has stirred strong emotions. There are protests outside the gallery that the fresco should be removed as pornographic.
I was led to wonder what the reaction would be two decades later to a painting of sexual organs being permanently and prominently displayed in a public gallery. I expect there would still be significant controversy. I think there would be less outcry if the artist were a woman rather than a man.
As she goes to Saskatoon Joanne has adjusted to the loss of her husband and her children are doing well. She deals with the issues faced by all parents. Her oldest daughter, Mieka, wants to quit university to open a catering business with her fiancé.
Sally continues to live a turbulent lifestyle. Sally cares little about a conventional life even in her mid-40’s. The beautiful artist has recently left her marriage with Stuart Lachlan, the director of the Mendel, to go to New Mexico with a 17 year old boy. While off on her fling her 4 year old daughter, Taylor, has stayed with Stuart. Sally's mother, Nina, came from Toronto to help take care of Taylor.
Joanne has had a relationship with Sally since they were children. When the girls were in their mid-teens Sally’s father, Desmond, died from poison after struggling with the aftermath of a stroke. Sally and Nina barely survived the same poison. Sally left shortly after and never responded to Joanne’s letters. Joanne has remained puzzled and troubled about their relationship.
Joanne has always been close to Nina. Joanne had a bad relationship with her mother and. Nina has been a great support for Joanne
Sally continues to casually strew chaos in her wake. She abruptly sells her gallery, womanwork, without even informing her longtime friend and employee, Clea Poole. Sally’s action leaves Clea devastated.
With Christmas near it is a cold Saskatchewan winter. On a bitter night Clea and a protester are murdered at the Mendel. Sally is a leading suspect.
Joanne works to figure out what happened while carrying on her busy personal and professional life.
The relationships between the characters are complex and intriguing. The mystery works it way amidst their personal lives.
My only regret is in the resolution which could be detected long before the ending.
I found I enjoyed the book as much this year as I enjoyed it in the early 1990’s. To truly savour the series it is best read in order so you can appreciate how Joanne and her family mature.
****Murder at the Mendel is my post for "M" in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme being hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise.
My connection to the book is the setting in Saskatchewan. The Mendel is a real art gallery which has had a lovely setting on the South Saskatchewan River in the heart of Saskatoon.
It is also the 13th book I have read in the 6th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at his Book Mine Set blog. On the last day of the Challenge I have completed the last book needed. I thank John Mutford for continuing this Challenge which has promoted the reading of Canadian authors all around the world.